Burglary is one of the most serious common law felonies known to the law. This offense is defined as the breaking and entering of a business or dwelling home, at night, with the intent to commit a felony therein.
Breaking describes gaining access to a structure by force. This may involve breaking and entering through a window, lifting up an unlocked window and entering inside, forcing a door open or ajar, opening and entering through an unlocked door without authority or permission, manipulating a locking mechanism, or unlocking a door with a key to which you have no authority or permission to possess. Entering describes crossing over a threshold, whether of a windowsill, doorway or otherwise, necessary to gain access to the inside of the structure.
Burglary may be committed on a variety of structures. The common law offense of burglary only applied to to dwelling homes. This law has been extended by statute to now include a house, condominium, apartment, business, school, college, church or public land. The act must also be committed with the intent to commit a felony inside the structure. Such felony conduct may include committing an assault upon the structure’s occupants, removing or otherwise stealing the contents of the structure, damaging or destroying the contents, or setting fire to the structure. Under Massachusetts criminal law, the crime of Burglary may be found at Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 266, Section 14 and Section 15.
Legal Elements of Burglary
Table of Contents
There are two ways to commit a Burglary under Massachusetts criminal law: armed burglary and unarmed burglary.
In order to be found guilty of Armed Burglary under Massachusetts criminal law, there must be strong evidence of the following legal elements:
- that the premises was the dwelling house of another
- the defendant broke into the dwelling house
- the defendant entered the dwelling house
- with the intent to commit a felony therein
- an occupant was at home at the time and the defendant either was armed with a dangerous weapon, armed himself with a dangerous weapon once inside the dwelling, or committed an actual assault on the occupant(s)
- during the nighttime
In order to be found guilty of Unarmed Burglary under Massachusetts criminal law, there must be strong evidence of the following legal elements: that the premises was the dwelling house of another; (2) that the defendant broke into the dwelling house; (3) entered the dwelling house; and (4) with the intent to commit a felony therein.
Examples of Burglary
Burglary usually involves the same type of conduct as breaking and entering except that the breaking and entering was done with the intent to commit another felony crime once inside the structure. Some examples of burglary include the following:
- Breaking into an abandoned building to steal items inside.
- Breaking into an abandoned building to sell drugs.
- Entering an open or unlocked building without permission to steal what is inside.
- Breaking into an occupied structure to sexually assault another person inside.
- Breaking into an occupied structure to seriously injure or kill another person inside.
- Breaking into an occupied structure to kidnap another person inside.
- Breaking into an occupied or unoccupied structure to set it or something in it on fire.
Potential Punishment if Convicted of Burglary in Massachusetts
The potential consequences for Armed Burglary, if convicted, in the Commonwealth may be found at Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 266, Section 14. A defendant convicted of Armed Burglary shall be punished by state prison for life or for any term of not less than 10 years. If the Armed Burglary was committed while armed with a firearm, regardless of type, the defendant shall be punished by state prison for life or for any term of years, but not less than 15 years. This felony offense is punishable by these mandatory minimum jail sentences.
The potential consequences for Unarmed Burglary, if convicted, in the Commonwealth may be found at Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 266, Section 15. A defendant convicted of Unarmed Burglary shall be punished by state prison for not more than 20 years and, if he or she was previously convicted of any type of burglary (armed or unarmed), shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than 5 years.